Carl Day 3

Day three is where we turn all that play we have been doing into some­thing really use­ful.  I start by ask­ing Carl for a “down” in exchange for the toy.

It is really nor­mal for dogs to have trou­ble with this.  Dogs need to be taught to switch gears between activ­i­ties: eat­ing food, play­ing, sit­ting, jump­ing, etc.  This does not come nat­u­rally.  A lot of dogs are so focused on the toy, focused exter­nally, that they really are not aware of what their bod­ies are doing.  They really don’t know that they are not in a down and have to really think hard to oper­ate their limbs in that moment.

Here’s an exper­i­ment to do at home.  Show your dog that you have treats, then feed your dog three treats.  Record how much time it takes your dog to take the treat when pre­sented (usu­ally pretty much imme­di­ately).  Now show your dog you have treats, then engage your dog in play for ten sec­onds.  Now present the treat.  Repeat three times.  Chances are your dog took quite a while to real­ize you had pre­sented a treat and decide to take it, and the more engag­ing the game, the slower your dog is in grab­bing the treat.  This is really nor­mal and is a skill that needs to be built if you want your dog to be able to take food rewards dur­ing active and phys­i­cally engag­ing activities.

How does this fit in with Carl?  Carl is really good at this for my first try with him.  I do have to do a lot of prompt­ing with my body but he gets it.  I use two toys here to get him to drop the one toy and engage me between exer­cises.  I imme­di­ately start build­ing this into a down-stay.  I use the cue “get-it” to release him to play.  He is stel­lar at this!

*I should put a clause in here that this train-for-toys game is appro­pri­ate for estab­lished behav­iors only.  If Carl did not already have a really solid grasp of what “down” meant, this would not work.  I have to prompt him with my body to help him learn how to “down” when focused on a toy, not because he does not have a great under­stand­ing of the com­mand.  He already does.

And now to more “place”.  Carl pretty much blew me away here.  It may not seem big, but he grasps the con­cept of “put your feet on this thing” in only one ses­sion.  This means that he already knows some ver­sion of this behav­ior or he’s a genius.  Both are impressive.

I am reward­ing first for Carl inter­act­ing with the object.  I reward on the object to rein­force that it is the object that is special.

Then I reward for stretch­ing over the object or plac­ing feet on the object.  If Carl stretches, I can reward up higher, at his eye level.  I do this because plac­ing the treat on the object would most likely cause him to step back to reach the treat and move his feet back away which could be con­fus­ing for him.  I check to make sure that he is fully aware of his actions and ensure that his foot place­ment is inten­tional by releas­ing him to eat a treat tossed away.  He imme­di­ately returns to the object and put his feet on it.

This may not seem like a big deal but for dog train­ing nerds like me, this is a dog with tal­ent.  I imme­di­ately deter­mine that we will build this into an incred­i­bly snappy heel behav­ior.  He has all the body aware­ness to be a flashy heeler (as in heel­ing) and we set our sights on that.

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